Tour de France helicopters to be powered by SAF


Helicopters supporting this year’s Tour de France cycle race are being powered by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), with supplies more widely available than during the 2022 event.

Two types of helicopters are deployed on the race by operator Hélicoptères de France. Single engine Airbus H125 helicopters are transporting VIPs and organisers, while twin-engine Ecureuils are used for filming the event. According to an Airbus Helicopters, rotorcraft play a key role in the live broadcasting of major sporting events. “The use of SAF … is a powerful lever for reducing their carbon footprint,” said the OEM.

Jean-Marc Genechesi, pilot, instructor and director of Hélicoptères de France said: “We use seven to nine helicopters for this big race. Our helicopters are in fact used by two clients: ASO, the organiser of the Tour, and Euromedia for France Télévisions, which provides the images that are broadcast around the world.”

SAF will be available at a number of airports along the race route. Reducing the tour’s carbon footprint has become increasingly important, said Genechesi. “Just as electric cars have been introduced to the convoy, last year ASO asked us to cover a third of all stages with SAF fuel, which we did.”

The H125 is certified to fly with 50% of SAF, which can cut CO2 emissions by 80% on average throughout its life cycle, with no change in consumption or power output compared with traditional fuel.

“Last year, there was only one SAF storage and delivery point in the south of France. For the 2023 Tour, SAF will be available at several airports, which will help us achieve even more ambitious consumption objectives,” said Genechesi.

Hélicoptères de France plans to use SAF for 50% of the stages for ASO and 30% for France Télévisions. “This is A small breakthrough for a major event,” according to Airbus Helicopters.

In addition to filming major sporting events, such as the Tour de France and the Dakar Rally (formerly known as  the Paris–Dakar Rally, Hélicoptères de France conducts a range of aerial work missions, including firefighting.

The 2023 Tour de France, the 110th edition of the famous cycle race, started in Bilbao, Spain on July 1st. The race will end on the Champs-Élysées, Paris, on July 23rd.

Meanwhile, for the latest news and insights on SAF, visit our sister publication SAF Investor.

Jean-Marc Genechesi, Hélicoptères de France, plans to use up to nine helicopters for the big race.